It’s never easy dealing with a defensive employee. Nobody likes being criticized. And defensive people don’t consider suggestions as helpful advice. Instead, they perceive it as an attack thus naturally triggering the fight or flight response.
Some people handle stress better than others. And whether you are an employee dealing with defensive colleagues or a boss managing defensive employees, there are certain approaches that you can use to get positive results. Improving the relationship between the manager and employees is one of the best ways to boost productivity and performance. This relationship can be improved by cultivating a positive attitude, communicating clearly and openly, respecting employees, and allowing them to grow.
1. The sandwich technique
What does it mean when employees are defensive in the workplace? They are insecure. If you have an employee who doesn’t respond well to helpful advice or constructive criticism, you should try mixing the criticism between compliments. This softens the landing ground. For instance, if you’re a project manager who has a defensive team member who hasn’t achieved the set objectives. You can:
- Compliment the team member for his previous works
- Bring up the criticism in a soft way
- Summarize everything with a compliment such as praising him or her for the hours he or she has been putting in
Doing this helps the employee make the necessary improvements or adjustments without a heavy heart or arguing.
2. Address the issue head-on
According to research by Assignment Masters and AustralianWritings, no one solution works when dealing with defensive employees. If the sandwich method doesn’t work, you will have to address the issue directly. Pull the defensive employee aside and have a private conversation. Start by pointing out when you started noticing the behavior.
However, don’t attack him or her directly. If you, the conversation won’t be productive. The situation will move from bad to worse. To avoid this, try paraphrasing things. Let him or her know how he or she behaves when he or she is confronted. Once you’ve addressed the issue, encourage him or her to communicate openly about any issue in the future.
3. Be open to suggestions
After addressing the defensive behavior directly, you don’t want your employee to have a hard time expressing his or her ideas and opinions. Ensure that you emphasize that he or she feels free to open up and share whenever they have a different thought and the reason behind it. Remember, this conversation goes both ways. You should encourage a collaborative and conducive environment instead of having you or the employee shut down.
4. Start with praise and reassurance
A defensive employee needs to be reassured. Remember, defensive behavior is all about ego and insecurity. To eliminate it, you have to ensure that the employee is secure. Let them know that constructive advice doesn’t mean that they are performing terribly.
Instead, you want to see them grow by making use of their strengths. Keep in mind that your feedback has to be genuine. Rubbing the ego of an employee who isn’t performing doesn’t do you any good. If you don’t think the employee is performing at his or her best, you have to be honest with him or her.
5. Avoid personal attacks
If you have a defensive employee, the HR professionals from Assignment Geek and SuperiorPapers say that you need to keep in mind that there is a reason behind his or her defensive behavior. Maybe your criticism is becoming personal. You should avoid criticizing their personality. Don’t say things like, “I don’t like your negative attitude”. Criticism has to be constructive for it to work. You can say something like, “When we spoke yesterday at the meeting, a lot of us felt discouraged. It would be great if we inspire each other as we progress forward.”
6. Don’t escalate
Reacting to your employee’s defensive behavior with anger and frustration will not solve anything. You’ll all have a hard time listening to each other. Shouting or repeating your message won’t help. When the situation escalates, dismiss the employee and summon him or her later when both of you are calm. Anger and frustration have never solved any problem.
7. Avoid criticizing in public
Nobody likes to be criticized in public. Doing this will only trigger defensive behavior. Always pull the employee aside to address the issue.
8. Avoid emphasizing your intention
When dealing with a defensive employee, you want to show him or her that you are on his side. You need to say things like, “I want to see you unlock your potential” or share an interesting story about a time when somebody’s feedback transformed your life. Choose words that feel authentic and ensure that your mindset is focused on helping your employee genuinely. Keep in mind that your employee will know if you aren’t being sincere.
9. Ask the right questions
When your employee gets defensive, he or she feels threatened. And this can be caused by several reasons which in most cases have nothing to do with you. When an employee gets defensive, one of the best things you can do is ask questions in a non-threatening way. Keep in mind that it’s all about how you ask. If you need help on how to phrase thoughts correctly, a My-Assignment.help and BrillAssignment services will be very useful.
For instance, if your employee hasn’t submitted an urgent task, asking him or her why he or she is late on it may make them angry and defensive. You can approach the same situation differently by asking him or her what he or she needs to get the task done. Asking the right questions will shift the focus on blaming the person for the task or required action.
10. Diffuse defensiveness with kindness
A defensive reaction is not likely to be met with kindness. But what if it made defensiveness go away? It’s difficult for the defensive employee to remain agitated when he or she is getting polite and positive responses. Also, your actions will draw attention to the employee’s behavior thus providing an opportunity for the employee to see how they are behaving and make necessary changes.
Defensive behavior usually signals insecurity, unhappiness, and irresponsibility. Trying to figure out why your employee is defensive can consume all your energy and chances are you don’t have the time to do this. By using the strategies that we’ve discussed here, you’ll have an easy time managing your employees and achieving your goals.
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